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What is COPD and How Can You Recognize It?

Sep 06, 2018

It’s human nature to take for granted things that happen constantly. People who see beauty or wonder constantly seem to take it for granted after time. Consider the majesty that is the workings of the human body. This intricate system in each of us is incredible. Just doing something like taking a breath is a work of art, yet is taken for granted.

There are some people out there who don’t take this for granted however. People who suffer from COPD are acutely aware of every breath taken. COPD is actually an umbrella term for several different disease that can affect a person’s lungs. When someone’s lungs don’t function as efficiently or effectively as they have in the past, it’s very noticeable to the affected people. But what is COPD? How can someone spot it? There are many questions about COPD that people are looking for answers with.

What is COPD?

Many people want to know more about COPD. As an amalgamation of diseases, it can be confusing to some people. The acronym tends to explain exactly what COPD is. The C is for chronic, implying that the diseases under the umbrella are constant and will not go away easily. The O stands for obstructive, which explains that these diseases don’t allow air to get out of the lungs due to various obstructions. The P stands of pulmonary, which simply means lung diseases. And of course, the D stands for disease.

There are three main diseases that are considered under COPD. The first is emphysema. This is a well known disease that is commonly blamed on cigarette smoking. Essentially, the walls of the lungs get damaged and makes it hard for the lungs to turn oxygen into carbon dioxide. The second disease is chronic bronchitis. With this, breathing tubs in the lungs are chronically inflamed and doesn’t allow people to cough up any mucus from their lungs. Finally, a specific type of asthma referred to as refractory asthma. Unlike other types of asthma, this one does not really respond to medications and thus the airways remain obstructed during an attack.

Symptoms of COPD

Unsurprisingly, many of the symptoms of COPD refer to issues with the lungs. When you are looking for COPD, be on the lookout for these symptoms:

  • Shortness of Breath - Shortness of breath is an issue to most people with COPD. They find that breathing simply doesn’t provide as much air as it used to.
  • Coughing - This is especially true of people with chronic bronchitis. The coughing is usually an attempt by the body to remove mucus that is struggling to be removed from the lungs.
  • Breathlessness - This is different from shortness of breath. In this case, people will find that they simply have had an extended period of time with less than optimal breathing, and suddenly find themselves struggling and surprised that they have no breath.
  • Chest Tightness - When people are realizing they have COPD, they may often feel like their chest is very tight. It can manifest as mere pressure or as pain.

Causes of COPD

There is one main cause of the various diseases that make up COPD. That is irritation to the lungs. While that can come in several forms, there is one form that is by far the most common cause. That is smoking.

People who smoke are typically at great risk of developing the various diseases found in COPD. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it’s been shown that as many as 30% of people who smoke or are around large amounts of cigarette smoke will develop one of the forms of COPD.

There are other risk factors as well. Many people who are near burning fuel, or volatile chemicals and dust have been known to develop COPD as well. There’s also some cases of genetics being a factor as well.

Treatments for COPD

Unfortunately, there’s not a way to cure COPD. The best that treatments can do is treat the symptoms and attempt to allow the sufferer to breathe more easily. Treatments will vary depending on which branch of COPD the person has. Here are some of the options:

  • Bronchodilators - The goal of these is to relax muscles that are pressing down on airways. This should in theory allow more air to easily get into the lungs. There are both long term versions and short acting versions that depend on the medication used to cause this.
  • Medications - In addition to the medication taken via bronchodilators, there are other medications that can be taken in pill form as well. These try to reduce swelling instead of relaxing muscles. The downside is there is often more side effects to these.
  • Oxygen Therapy - This treatment works to induce more oxygen into the lungs. It may occur through masks or tubes. In major cases, there can be surgical treatments. There’s also portable oxygen therapy where people bring the tanks of oxygen with them.  

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